Moats catches on to new role with Steelers

Steelers' top backup at OLB was Bills ILB when he basically ended Favre's career

Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats did not know he would go down in Brett Favre infamy that December day of his rookie season four years ago.

"I was just excited to be playing in an NFL game," Moats said Wednesday in a light summer rain at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. "I wasn't even aware of the record."

The record stood as one of the more incredible feats of longevity, productivity and good health in sports history -- Favre's 297 consecutive starts at quarterback over 19 seasons in a brutal sport that often ends careers before they begin.

Moats not only squashed that streak, he helped hasten the end of Favre's brilliant career. It happened Dec. 5, 2010 in Minnesota with Favre playing in what would be his second-to-last NFL game with the Vikings and Moats a rookie linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.

"It was a sprint-action away," Moats recalled the play that started with Favre moving to his right. "I was on the backside. He was going to his right. I was chasing him.

"I remember the coaches the whole week talking about just keep pursuing on the backside and seal it because he likes to prolong plays, that's his M.O. Sure enough, that's what he started doing, he started drifting back to the inside, and I just closed on him and made the hit."

Moats caught Favre with a clean hit in the back as he was trying to pass.

"There was definitely a grunt," said Moats, recalling Favre's reaction.

The ball fluttered into the hands of a Buffalo teammate for an interception. Favre, 41, was done for the day with a bum right shoulder. He missed the following game against the New York Giants, the first time he did not play since his first season in Green Bay in 1992.

Favre would go on to play the next week, but, after throwing seven passes against the Chicago Bears, he was done. He never played another game and went on with his life's work selling Wrangler jeans.

"With Brett Favre, no one expected him not to play," Moats said, "because even though he was always banged up or something was wrong with him he always shows up and plays. It was a surprise for all of us.

"After the fact, it's definitely crazy to think about it. Man, think of all the guys who hit him before. From that aspect, it was kind of cool."

It also was cool Wednesday for Moats to practice against his former Bills teammates. They will practice again today, then play each other Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Moats has become the top backup at outside linebacker. If Jason Worilds or Jarvis Jones goes down, Moats goes up. He has made a smooth transition from playing the weak-side inside linebacker spot for the Bills in their hybrid 3-4 defense of last season. He welcomes the switch in position and his chances with his new team.

"It's a lot different, a lot more a rushing the passer and looking at things from the outside in. It's fun, especially since that's what I did in college. To be able start doing that again is good."

Moats started 12 games for Buffalo in 2013, his first as a regular, but the Bills did not re-sign him and he became an unrestricted free agent. He signed a one-year contract with the Steelers for $795,000, which means three of the top four outside linebackers on their depth chart all enter the final years of their contracts -- Moats, Worilds and Chris Carter.

"I hope I can stay here longer, though," said Moats, 26.

The Steelers are trying to beef up their pressure on the quarterback after their sacks dipped from 48 in their most recent Super Bowl season of 2010 to 35, 37 and 34 the past three seasons.

Moats' opportunity to help would only come in case of injury or if the two starters do not come through. They also talked to him about possibly playing inside linebacker in emergency situations.

"You think of the legacy of the Steelers defense," Moats said. "To have a chance to add to that with a new group of guys and start fresh is a great time."

Ed Bouchette: and Twitter @EdBouchette.

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